At least three people were killed and 43 others injured when suicide bombers attacked the Ugandan capital of Kampala on Thursday evening. It was the second such strike in a month, highlighting the growing Islamist militant threat to South East Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
Armed with small bombs, the two bombers hit two police stations in Kampala’s upmarket Fort Portal neighborhood in the city’s southern suburbs. The attacks come just over a month after Ugandan authorities arrested two suspected members of the Somalia-based Islamic extremist group al-Shabab with explosive belts that had been disguised as sandals. Last month, authorities said that they were on a “high alert” for al-Shabab terrorists returning to Uganda from Somalia.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni condemned the terror attacks and said: “I have confirmed that three people have died and have been taken to hospital.” President Obama has also offered condolences to the people of Uganda and its government following the attacks.
“The United States condemns these cowardly attacks against innocent people, which are an affront to the United Nations Charter, human rights, international peace and security, and international religious freedom,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
The Red Cross said at least 43 people were injured in the attack and said 15 of them were in critical condition. Gunshots were heard as a number of people scampered to safety following the attack.
Last month’s arrest of two suspected al-Shabab terrorists in Uganda came hours after police said they were on a “high alert” for al-Shabab terrorists returning to Uganda. But so far, Uganda has not been directly involved in any military action in Somalia.
Uganda is a key Western ally in the region due to its role in the ongoing anti-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden. According to a government statement, the two bombers are suspected of links to foreign terrorist organizations and are believed to have been planning attacks in Uganda.
Uganda has been shaken by a number of deadly terror attacks in recent years. In January 2011, 79 people were killed in twin attacks by al-Shabab in Kampala.
Uganda’s security forces have managed to stop several terror attacks that have emerged in Kampala since then, but three deadly attacks in the country have taken place over the past year.
In September, the U.S. embassy warned of a possible terror attack against the U.S. Embassy in Uganda. The embassy said that the threat of terror attacks on Western embassies in the region had grown. The embassy blamed the Ugandan militant group the Allied Democratic Forces for the threat.
In December last year, militants from the Lords Resistance Army, which has been linked to al-Shabab and al-Qaida, raided a settlement area in northeast Uganda, which is close to a Ugandan military base. The Sudanese rebels carried out the raid near Teso, a district in the north of the country, and killed at least 12 people.
And in December last year, security forces killed 14 terrorists in northern Uganda in an exchange of fire. They were killed near Kampala, close to two regional airports and near a large military base in Teso. The raid followed the killings of 13 troops and civilians in an ambush on a convoy in June last year.
Officials said that the two bombs used in Thursday’s attack were made with a 30-pound bomb, which is roughly equivalent to a bomb that detonated at an Islamic school last year.
The two bombs appeared to be under construction. They had been constructed in bombsites belonging to an Al Qaeda-affiliated rebel group in Somalia. The bombs were buried underground and then installed on bicycles near the police stations.
The bombs can be detonated via a cell phone, police officials said.